Move over growth stocks. Here’s why investors are once again bullish on ETFs

January 13, 2021, 10:06 AM UTC

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Good morning. There’s little oxygen in these markets. Stocks are barely budging again on Wednesday as investors look ahead to the upcoming slate of earnings calls (Big Finance kick things off tomorrow) to see if this recovery trade has legs. In the meantime, all eyes are on Washington.

Here’s the latest from the nation’s capital: VP Mike Pence has refused to invoke the 25th Amendment (no surprise there), setting up a House impeachment vote that more and more Republicans, including Liz Cheney of Wyoming, are warming to. Meanwhile, President Trump has declared his removal from office via the 25th Amendment “is of zero risk to me.”

“Zero risk” seems to perfectly describe today’s moribund markets. Let’s take a look… Further down, I explore the big shift in investment strategy away from individual growth stocks to ETFs.

Markets update


  • The major Asia indexes are mixed in afternoon trading with Japan’s Nikkei up 1%.
  • New COVID outbreaks in Japan are casting fresh doubts over whether the Summer Olympics will be delayed yet again beyond July. Olympic sponsors won’t be happy.
  • The Houston Rockets, one of the most popular NBA teams in China, saw its games broadcasted once again on Tencent this week following a 16-month blackout. The streaming giant though is still blacklisting one prominent NBA team, Fortune‘s Grady McGregor writes.


  • The European bourses were trading sideways in early trading with the Stoxx Europe 600 up a whopping 0.03% at the open.
  • German finance minister Olaf Scholz says he will approach the Biden administration with a plan to harmonize the tax rate multinationals pay abroad, a huge sticking point between the trading partners that the OECD so far has been unable to sort out.
  • Shares in French retail giant Carrefour were up 9% this morning after it emerged Canada’s Couche-Tard was exploring a tie-up.


  • The U.S. futures are flat this morning, following yesterday’s wimpy gains. Small caps on the Russell 2000 were yesterday’s big winner; the index closed 1.8% higher yesterday.
  • Shares in Walmart were flat in pre-market trading after the retail giant announced it’s launching a fintech startup through a partnership with VC Ribbit Capital. The latter is a real player in fintech with stakes in Robinhood, Affirm, and Coinbase.
  • Alas, it’s not all popping champagne corks in the world of fintech. Visa called off its $5.3 billion deal to buy Plaid, a split that regulators are cheering as “a victory for American consumers and small businesses.” Visa shares fell 1.9% on Tuesday.


  • Gold is climbing again, trading around $1,878/ounce.
  • The dollar is up slightly.
  • Crude is up, with Brent trading around $57/barrel.
  • Bitcoin is down 4.1% in the past 24 hours, trading below $35,000, or 15% below the all-time high it hit over the weekend.


ETF Nation

Last week was not a good week for stocks. Let me correct that—it was not a good week for individual stocks.

That might surprise you given that the S&P 500 burst out of the gates, starting off 2021 with a 2% rally. But dig into the numbers and you start to see investors are having a change of heart about individual stocks, including some of 2020’s high-flyers.

In BofA Securities’ latest flows report, they saw yet again their clients were big net sellers of equities last week even as the benchmark S&P hit new all-time highs. The biggest outflows were (again) in tech, followed by consumer discretionary stocks. On the flip side, the biggest in-flows were in ETFs, as the chart here illustrates:

As the chart above shows, eight of the S&P’s 11 sectors last week saw net outflows, adding to a trend that’s grown more pronounced over the past four weeks.

“Outflows out of tech were the second highest on record,” the BofA analysts write, “driven by institutional and retail clients while hedge funds were small net buyers. All size segments saw outflows, led by large caps.”

Meanwhile, over the past five weeks, investors have been pouring into ETFs—specifically, blended ETFs split between value and growth stocks.

We’ve covered quite a bit how the rotational trade has been playing out since November—that is, the shift from growth to value. As we’ve seen, there hasn’t been an abrupt exit from tech-heavy growth stocks, but rather a gradual shift. And, as the BofA data here shows, ETFs appear to be the preferred vehicle by which investors are shifting their money.

The ETF gives the investor wider exposure to some value and some growth, a solid hedge in an uncertain market.

I’ll be watching this closely to see if this trend continues. Watch this space.


Have a nice day, everyone. I’ll see you here tomorrow… Until then, there’s more news below.

Bernhard Warner

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